Refusing the Temptation of Take Matters into Our Own Hands

This is not the first time that I buy a book on Kindle, start reading it and end up buying a “real” copy to be able to underline it and write my notes -with real pens-, and truly make it my own. The book I am now talking about is by A.W. Pink and it is entitled Gleanings from Paul: The Prayers of the Apostle.

I plan to share some portions of it with you as I read through.

In Romans 1:8-12 we read one of the prayers of Paul, and among other things he asks the Lord to make it possible for him to visit the Christians in Rome  (v.10). Pink comments on this passage,

Let it be duly noted that he refused to take matters into his own hands and act upon an inward urge. Instead, he subordinated his own longings and impulses to the will of Him whom he served. This is very striking and blessed. Paul did not consider what many would regard as ‘the Spirit’s prompting’ a sufficient warrant. He must first be assured, by His providences, that this journey was ordered by His Master. Accordingly he spread his case before God, committing the matter to His decision and pleasure.”  (emphasis mine)

I don’t know about you, but for me the temptation to take matters into my own hands is real, which means that reading these words was convicting.

However, as with all temptations, there is way out; and we the effectual remedy against the temptation of taking things into our own hands is Prayer.

I read once that dependency is the heartbeat of prayer; and now think about this, when we decide to take things into our own hands -instead of praying and trusting in God and in His Providence- we are in a sense saying, “God, I don’t think you can handle this. I know which things need to be  done and I will start doing those few things that must be done right now -before it is too late-.” Sisters, as we start acting in urgency, responding to our own longings, impulses, and feelings we are in reality denying our dependency on God.  And that, we all know, is a sin from which we need to repent.

 

Really, Sisters, if we keep insisting into taking all the difficult circumstances into our hands instead of bringing them in prayer to God we will only going to make up messes. A.W. Pink reminds us, “Unless we ‘rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him’ (Psa. 37:7) only confusion and trouble will ensue.”

Prayer is the only way to resist and overcome the temptation of taking things into our own matters because in prayer we say, “God, I cannot handle this on my own. I need you. Give me patience to wait in you, in your Providence; draw me to your Word, Oh Lord. Grant me a humble heart to seek advice, and a quiet heart to trust in your timing. I am wholly dependent on you, my sovereign Lord.

Praying with you as we learn to be wholly dependent on Him at all times,

Becky

In Grace, By Grace, and Under Grace -On Raising Our Children –

 

My Man and I were talking in the car -trapped in traffic-, the tears and fears, and thousand questions were all there. It was 12 years ago, in that car, that we decided we were going to start homeschooling our children (three at the time). This was way too crazy for us to do, we personally didn’t  know any family doing this, we had really no idea on how to start or if it would work or not. What about socialization? And paper work? All those questions -and many more- were in our minds -in our hearts-. But it seemed that we didn’t have any other choice if we wanted to provide to our children an education that didn’t divorce our beliefs with what they were being taught at school. Not one Christian school was around for us to even consider that as an option (even now, there are only a few “Christian schools” that are only “Christian” in name -we live in Mexico City, remember?).

I tucked my children in bed that night, Santiago was 8, Annie 6 and Nico 4 (Isabel only existed in the plans of God at that time). And I kissed them with the kind of kiss that is mingled with tears. We loved our children, and we knew we had to be purposely involved in their education if we wanted to bring them up in the Covenant. That night, in my dreams, the Lord reminded me of a prayer I had prayed over and over in my teenage years, “Lord, I want to serve you full time. I want to be used by you to change the world, to fight for Your Kingdom, to be a godly influence in the world, to reach many, to touch lives.” And you know what? I remember how I cried so much every time I prayed this prayer because all the ideas I had about ministries that will change the world were always doors that were impossible to break through,  no matter how hard I tried to bring them down they remained closed. But this night was different. As the Lord reminded me of that prayer of my youth in my dreams, I knew He was graciously answering my prayer in a much unexpected way: I was given the opportunity to change the world, to fight for the Kingdom, to be a godly influence, to reach many, to touch lives by reaching to my children first.

Morning came and new mercies too. We still had a huge list of questions, fears, doubts, but the direction of the Lord for our family was clear. There was not turning back. And many new mornings came and each one brought new mercies with it.

Today classes are officially over at VPSA (one of the most important ways God answered to my fears!), and Annie and Nico (who decided to graduate earlier) finished highschool and will be joining Santiago in College next Fall. I look back now and cannot see anything but grace upon grace. Every day with them has been a day we started and finished in grace, by grace, and under grace. All our doubts and fears, and questions never conquered us, and not because we were too smart, or too disciplined, or too savvy, or had a great support group and many friends, nor even because we had the kind of faith that moves mountains. Oh no, we didn’t! We conquered the doubts and fears, and questions because we knew we were small and our God big. We took everyday five little stones and faced the Giant face to face, knowing in whom we had put our trust.  We obeyed and we trusted in Him because the well of mercy and grace never dried up.

Today I look at them, two young men and a young lady. And I see how they love each other with genuine love, how they long to be always together, how they support one another, how they enjoy being with our little Isabel. I see them well grounded in love and in the faith. I see them too raising their eyes to the horizon, getting hold of their own Sword and ready to fight Giants and Dragons. They are arrows ready to pierce the enemy. They are blessed warriors who long to build families and have their own quivers filled with children and raise them up in the Covenant of Grace.

And I give thanks to my God, because isn’t that the only natural response to a Grace-filled life?

Now I see Isabel, and think of how her journey will be very different. And because God hasn’t changed His orders for us, we’ll remain in this path. Again I have fears and doubts, and questions. Again I have tears in my eyes as I think of only having one child in our little homeschool. Again I think that this is crazy.  And yes, as my friend Ann says, I have “soul-amnesia.”

This time the encouragement comes not in a dream. The Lord used my son, Santiago, to remind me of the goodness and faithfulness of our God. He recounts the blessings, the answer to our prayers. “Mom, remember how you had no idea how you were going to teach us Logic, and Rhetoric, and Physics, and Algebra? Remember, Mom, how God provided for us an online school -a brand new school at the time- that was clearly an answer to your prayers [and how we found that school! An old catalog handed to me by someone who didn’t know anything about Classical Education and was given this catalog by a missionary when he left…]. Mom, remember this…. remember when… Remember, He will lead you now and show you what to do with Isabel. It will be good.”

So I look back and recount His blessings. And it is amazing how looking back and remembering His goodness, His hand leading us every day, gives us hope for the day ahead. I cling to my Rock one more time and I hold my peace.

It has been a long way, and it was lived day by day, minute by minute. Fully there, and fully aware that if the Lord didn’t build these children up, all we were doing was in vain. This has been a journey of grace and will continue to be so. I have messed things up many many times, I am a woman with many flaws. Many times I get behind in Math, and I’m not happy to do all the hands-on projects, and get -pretty ugly-mad- at them. But God, in spite of all my faults and shortcomings has heard my prayers and my cries and has given us grace to start each day, grace to continue, and grace to finish well. We have planted faithfully and have watered the seed of the Word in their hearts every day, all day, but God, and only God can make each seed grow and give fruit. And He has done so faithfully and I know He will continue to do it in this new stage of our family.

Today I remember this prayer of my youth, “Lord, I want to serve you full time. I want to be used by you to change the world, to fight for Your Kingdom, to be a godly influence in the world, to reach many, to touch lives.”  And I see how God has answered it as I look at each one of our children.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky

Proverbs 2: Three Ifs

Shiloh Photography

Proverbs 2 is without any doubt one of my favorite proverbs and this morning as I was reading it I noticed three important ifs (v.1-4)  that lead us to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (v.5-8). Three ifs that will help us understand righteousness and justice (v.9).

“My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to
understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures…”
Proverbs 2:1-4 (emphasis mine)

If you receive my words…

The only way to receive God’s Word is with a humble and quiet heart. A proud heart, an unteachable heart will never have an attitude of inclining his heart and ear to attentively listen to what God is saying.  We need a quiet heart, a quiet spirit to listen humbly to what the Lord is saying in His Word.  I have many times sinned by trying to quench God’s voice and choosing instead to listen to my own heart’s desires or anxieties. I have sinned when I have not taken heed of the warnings that God gives us in His Word, when I have been stubborn and have embraced my own thinking as the correct one. And you know what? Those times I have sinned in this area is because I did not come to the Word with a humble and a quiet heart that is always ready to listen both the encouragement in God’s Word as well as His warnings and admonitions.

If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you…

Again and again, we see this principle all over. How can I possible treasure up God’s Word within me if  don’t purposely do something about it? Memorizing the Word is the only way to meditate on it day and night. And if you think you can’t memorize it, well, read it all day long. Carry the Word with you, have it open on your kitchen counter, on your coffee table in your living-room, download Apps on your mobile that will help you treasure it all day long. As John Piper said, “Let the Bible bring you back to reality over and over during the day.”

If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding…

James told us the same thing: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The key word in both passages is “call.” We must call, we must ask God for it, knowing that He is the source of all Wisdom. There is no wisdom apart from Him. Let us not deceive ourselves, sisters, we know no better than God. Before calling your friend asking her for an advice, first search the Scriptures and go to your Heavenly Father in prayer. He has promised to generously give us the wisdom we need to live in this beautiful, crazy, and at times confusing world when we call for it, when we diligently seek it in prayer. The more wisdom I need the more prayer and the more reading of the Bible I need.

If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures…

So we need a humble heart to receive and treasure God’s Word, we also need to call out to God for wisdom. Now how are we going to do this? Diligently, putting all effort in our quest for wisdom. It doesn’t just happen. It is not like our justification in which we don’t have to do anything to become children of God, no here we are called to action. We must seek it and search it as for silver and hidden treasures. It is a life long pursue, it a day to day endeavor. It is hard work. It means that we might have to wake up earlier to make time for reading the Scriptures and praying. It means that we must purposely bring our heart and thoughts in submission to what God says throughout the day. There are no shortcuts. If we want to grow in wisdom we must strive for it and seek it with all diligence.

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God…

Please read verses 5-8. See? Isn’t it amazing that the Lord does give wisdom? He has stored  sound wisdom for simple women like me!  When we listen attentively, when we call for it, when we search for it as for hidden treasures we come to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Then you will understand righteousness and justice…

Now read verses 9-22. Look at these promises: wisdom will sure come to our heart and knowledge will be pleasant to our soul as a result of God answering our prayers. Discretion will watch over us and understanding will guard us (and watch and guard are strong verbs, they are definitely not passive ones!)

In verses 12-29 we see that when wisdom comes we will be able to discern and be delivered from the way of the evil and of men of perverted speech that deceive with their many words.  We will be delivered from the forbidden women (who always leads to idolatry and foolishness that drives men -and women alike- away from the covenant).

The last three verses give us a glimpse of the end of both the wise and the fool. And I know I want live and end my days walking in the way of the good, keeping to the path of the righteous. I long to live uprightly and in all integrity before my God. I want to live a wise life, so I will remember to listen humbly, to search the Scriptures, and to pray.

May God help us,

Becky

On Living Quietly – Quietness of Heart-

I came across this short meditation by Ray Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition today and I just needed to share it with you. It ministered to me as I am -slowly- learning what it means to Live Quietly.

“In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

The greatest power in all this world is not military or political or sexual or commercial. The greatest power, which will outlast all others (“above all earthly powers”), resides deep within the simplest believer. Quietness of heart before God, trusting in him, is our strength, and there is no greater strength.

Alec Motyer comments insightfully, “Quietness is the absence of panic and restlessness. It is the product not of refusal to face life but of insistence upon taking God into account in trust.”

This quietness is not denial but indeed its opposite. It is facing God, taking God as God fully into account, treating God as more real than everything so firmly set against us, including our own needs and sins, because he is more real.

Quietness of heart is not outwardly impressive. Which is why we sometimes get nervous, why trusting in God can feel like skating on thin ice. But it is God’s good wisdom — and there is no other — for the display of his all-sufficiency.

Quietness of heart before God is where fugitives stop running, and start resting, and become stalwarts and overcomers, because God himself is there.

Learning under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Praying Ephesians -Ephesians 2-

“None of us will have any more spiritual understanding than the Spirit gives us; but then he will give us as much as we seek by earnest and believing prayer. To grow in grace, and in knowledge, we must consult both the book and its Divine Author: the one by study, and the other by prayer.”  John Angell James


@Annie Pliego Photography

Father, this Saturday morning, a day before Resurrection Sunday I come in prayer before you to give you thanks for your glorious Grace displayed on the Cross and the Resurrection.

Father, it is beyond all my comprehension that when I was dead in my trespasses and sins in which I once walked -and loved-, when I was following the course of this world without any objections; when I was a daughter of disobedience, of wrath, living in the passions of my flesh and carrying out the desires of my body and mind. When I thought I was seeking you but in reality I was only looking for the gifts that only You can give, when I was hopeless in this fallen world, Jesus died for me on that cruel cross and after three days rose again from the death conquering sin and death, taking on himslef all my guilt and curse, and giving me Life.

Your are rich in mercy, Oh God, the love with which you have loved your own is greater than the heavens. Always reaching to the sinner, to the hopeless, to the sinner. Lord, thank you for giving us life in Christ. Thank you for the power of the resurrection and for all the kindness that in Christ you have shown to us. Thank you because we are now in Christ, now my life is hidden within Him. What an amazing Grace that saves through faith hopeless sinners like me! Thank you for giving me the gift of faith to believe. Thank you because my salvation does not depend on me, on my will, on my choices “for you,” because I am sure I would have never chosen you. Thank you because you saved me by grace through faith and even now, in  my daily walk,  you sustain me by your grace and the faith you give me to endure the trials  and temptations that each day bring.

Thank you, Father, because the salvation of your children is not by works. Thank you, thank you! Thank you because the only work that was perfect was Jesus’ and it has pleased you to bestow upon me the righteousness that comes from His work.  Thank you because it has pleased you to give me the salvation of my soul, which is the most wonderful gift that one could ever receive!

Help me to live with a humble and grateful heart that loves to obey your Word. Help me to walk with wide open eyes to see the good works which you have prepared beforehand for me to do.  Help me to live giving and walking in Grace.

Lord, help me to walk my Christian life remembering that once I was not saved, that I loved walking in the flesh, that I was not in the Covenant. That I may never forget what it was to be separated from Christ, what it was to live having no hope in this fallen world. I don’t want to forget how dark the pit in which you found me was, so that I may always have a heart full of compassion towards those who are not in your family yet. Help me, Lord to preach the gospel that saves. I pray for ______________ that you may bring them near to you by the blood of Christ. I intercede for __________that may come to know what true peace is.

Father, I come to you through Jesus giving you thanks because I am no longer a stranger, but a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of your household. Thank you because every day you continue to build my life on the foundation of the apostles and prophets; a strong building that stands against all storms because Christ Jesus is the cornerstone. Thank you for your Church, O Lord, help us to grow together in your Truth, encouraging one another not to fall into sin, or in the deceptions of this world, but to walk in the faith, established on your Holy Word. Help us to walk humbly, knowing at all times that we are where we are because your Grace has reached toward us, helpless sinners.

Praying in Jesus’ name whose Name is above all names,

Amen

Becky

The Giving of Thanks and My Obedience

@Jim LePage Crux Sola Project

The giving of thanks can only begin when the gift of the divine Word is acknowledged; indeed, only when I am immersed in the study of the divine Word. How could one begin to give thanks to God and not concern oneself with his Word? What kind of thanks would it be to receive the gifts but refuse the required obedience to the giver? It would be a pagan thanksgiving, which is indeed widely practiced.
That is not a giving of thanks to the Lord God, but rather to an impersonal fate or fortune to which I am in no way obligated. Thanks to God that does not proceed from an obedient heart is presumption and falsehood. Only when God’s revealed Word has made our heart want to obey him can we thank God for earthly and heavenly gifts… 

I thank God because I want to learn and know what he requires of me, but I thank him as one who is still only learning, who still lacks everything when measured by God’s righteous judgments. So thanksgiving leads me back to the giving God and then forward to the commanding God, in order finally to find in him his righteousness, which I experience anew as righteousness given to me. “Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me; but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God” (Ps. 50:24).”

Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word (emphasis mine)

Today as I fix my heart on the Cross, and I am drawn to give Him thanks -over and over again- for His perfect sacrifice, for His atonement, I am also drawn to pray, “Lord, help me to show you my gratitude through my love and obedience to your Word.”

Becky